“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled
to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”
When I was growing up and I would voice my opinion my father would frequently tell me, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink.” When he would say that to me I thought he was just being insulting of me and my opinions. It took me many years before I realized that there was a great deal of wisdom in that, rather crude, saying.
I guess I should start this boondoggle by defining the word opinion. My definition of the word may be different from what the dictionary says, so I’ll begin with that. My definition of an opinion is an idea or belief regarding something which does not necessarily have to be based upon fact or critical thought.
So let’s take a look and see how Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word opinion. The dictionary says that an opinion is, “an idea that is believed to be true or valid without positive knowledge.” So it seems that Merriam Webster’s and I are in agreement with one thing, the fact that opinions are not always formed based upon facts or any knowledge of the subject they pertain to.
You might have opinions on a multitude of subjects, but if those opinions have no basis in fact, in reality even, then how do you go about justifying them when someone comes along armed with facts that prove them wrong? Yet I see it all the time, people clinging to opinions and beliefs that cannot be supported by fact, and which are easily disproved if they would just examine the facts with an open mind.
However, there are two types of opinions; uninformed opinions and informed opinions. Uninformed opinions are, and excuse the language, ideas and beliefs people pull out of their ass without much thought whatsoever.
Yet the term informed opinion is a bit misleading, as it depends upon how and where people derive their information leading to them forming that opinion. For example, if you’re sitting around with a bunch of friends talking about politics or current events, you can say that you’re informed because you are weighing everything your friends say to form your opinion; but the truth is you are basing your opinion upon the opinions of others; and their opinions may not be based upon fact. So an informed opinion might not necessarily be an educated opinion; which is the goal which we should all strive for.
Let me ask you something; where do you get the facts that shape your opinions? Do you get them from reading, or from watching the nightly news? Have you ever stopped to consider that the thoughts you are reading or hearing are merely the opinions of others and not based upon absolute truthfulness?
People lie all the time; even if it amounts to nothing more than a little white lie; or a fib as we used to call them. But there are two areas where absolute truthfulness is crucial; news reporting and the recording and retelling of history. When you watch a news anchor report the news they are often reading from a script, or off a teleprompter; which are merely someone else’s thoughts on the story being reported. These thoughts may be biased, they may emit certain facts, or they may be outright fabrications.
You may recall the story of the husband and wife reporting team that worked for WTVT out of Tampa who attempted to run a story about Bovine Growth Hormone. The FOX News affiliated told them to tone down their story, which they refused to do. They were terminated and sued in court to get their jobs back. In their decision the court sided with WTVT, saying, “We agree with WTVT that the FCC’s policy against the intentional falsification of the news-which the FCC has called its “news distortion policy”-does not qualify as the required “law, rule, or regulation” under section 448.102.” So, in other words, it is okay for the owners of a news station to omit certain facts from a news story so as to introduce a certain bias, or spin to a story.
Yet millions of people tune into the news every evening, then proudly proclaim that they are knowledgeable about what’s happening in the world. Let me tell you something, these news channels are businesses, and they make their money off the advertisement spots they sell. The more viewers they have the more they can charge people to run ads during their shows. So news has to generate viewers, and the more controversial, or the more exciting the news is, the larger their viewing audience becomes; meaning they can charge advertisers a lot more to run their ads on their station.
A week or so ago my local news channel, KCRA out of Sacramento, devoted 20 minutes of their news broadcast to a breaking news story about some guy leading the police on a high speed chase across the various cities of Sacramento County. They had their Live Copter 3 flying above the scene while the anchors sounded more like color commentators for a sporting event than they did news reporters.
This made for great television, but as for news reporting, it stunk; there were a half dozen other stories that they could have, should have reported on; but they wouldn’t have had people glued to their couches in anticipation of what would happen to this guy leading the police on a wild chase through town.
So the news you’re watching is crafted to shape your opinions for you, not provide you with all the facts and then let you draw your own conclusions from them. Oh, and not to mention that the CIA, (Central Intelligence Agency) has had its grubby little hands in the news media for quite some time; shaping and directing what stories are reported on; what facts should be focused on and which should be omitted.
Ever see the movie Good Morning Vietnam starring Robin Williams? Remember the two twin army brothers who censored the news Adrian Cronauer was allowed to report on? Well that’s similar to what the CIA probably does when it decides which stories are reported on, the bias they are spun with, and which stories are squashed altogether. If you don’t believe me about the CIA’s involvement in reporting the news you might want to do some research on Operation Mockingbird, you might just get a real education. After all, it was the former head of the CIA, William Casey, who told President Reagan that “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”
The other source people have for their information comes from books; and that’s assuming people even read anything at all aside from fiction novels and the sports page. But what are books if they are not the opinions of the writers?
Listen, I’m no different in that I try to get you to think, or understand my point of view, (my opinion) on the subjects I write about. But I do one thing many books, including the history books you learn from in school; I attempt to provide factual evidence to support my opinions.
A perfect example of how history books lie is in their coverage of the period of American History known as the Civil War. If they had been taught the truth there wouldn’t be the animosity towards all images representing the Confederate States of America, and people certainly wouldn’t believe it was fought to end slavery.
The best way to learn history is by reading the words of those who participated in the events being discussed. This goes for the Civil War, the fighting of the American Revolution, and the drafting and ratification of our Constitution. Anything you read that isn’t heavy on quotations from those alive during the period those events happened is the opinion of the writer; which may or may not be based upon historical proof.
I think people today are averse to the truth; it causes them severe emotional trauma and causes them to reject it because it conflicts with what they have been indoctrinated into believing is true. Yet if we don’t seek the truth, then how can anyone honestly say that they are informed; educated?
If we had been taught the truth from an early age America might not be in its current state, but we were not taught the truth; not even a fraction of it. It is a monumental, if not impossible task to undo the indoctrination people have undergone at the hands of their educators and the news media. The ignorance, and even worse, the apathy runs deep in the American people; it has become so ingrained one might say it has become a part of our DNA.
Hendrik Willem van Loon once wrote something that I, and many others like me, encounter almost daily, “Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.”
Then there is this by fictional writer Dresden James, (real name Donald James Wheal), who said, “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.”
I hold those who can support their opinions with factual evidence with the highest regard; even when I disagree with them. I may not agree with them, but they hold my regard because they have at least taken the time to research the issues and form their own opinions; rather than have their opinions spoon fed to them by others who seek to control, shape, and manipulate them.
I can’t count the arguments I’ve had with people, with friends, and even family members who tell me they think the government should do this or do that, but cannot provide any constitutional justification for the government doing the things they think it should do. People who do that expose their own lack of intellectual integrity when they cannot provide any factual evidence to support their opinions – in fact I hold them with more contempt than I do a common thief.
I say that because they claim moral superiority as the sole justification for their position, while I base my opinions solely upon the truth; morality and emotions do not even come into play when I form my opinions. Sure, I may become emotional when arguing with them, but that is only because they reject facts and evidence that proves their opinions wrong.
I don’t claim to know everything. In fact, I don’t think there is a person alive who can legitimately make that claim. Yet I have opinions, and I try, as best possible, to form those opinions based upon facts. However, I am not too pig-headed and stubborn that I cling to those opinions when someone proves them wrong. I have the integrity to alter my opinions based upon facts presented to me – can you say the same about yourself?
The other day I received in the mail a 4 volume set of books on the Civil War. I’d be willing to bet that I can count on one hand the number of people I interact with on a daily basis who would spend the time required to read, and think about what the author says. Yet these same people have opinions on the Civil War; opinions that often have no basis in historical fact. That is what upsets me the most; the great pride people take in their own ignorance.
In closing I’d like to leave you with a quote from Volume 1 and after you read it ask whether or not the words written by the author mean anything to you, and if not, then what does that say about your character and intellectual integrity. So without further ado, I leave you with the words of Howard Ray White:
And this study is dedicated to telling of the truth, and that alone. For it is neither dedicated to being fair or to being even-handed; nor is it dedicated to a sympathetic treatment of good intentions gone bad. This study will not omit a bit of meaningful history because its telling is too painful or too embarrassing. It does not view racial history with one eye fixed on present-day political correctness. And i rejects outcome-base judgment, for I abhor the excuse that the end justified the means. No, this study, this work, is none of these, for it is solely dedicated to an incorruptible telling of the truth